Wednesday, February 27, 2008

creating a legacy: from ballads to cowboy songs

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Ike Leggett wants a bigger County Council; Marilyn Praisner's widower considers running for his wife's old seat.

Part TWO of a series about Lisa Null, Silver Spring folk artist, who will be performing solo for the first time in twenty years this Thursday.

Forming a set list for your first solo concert since 1989 might seem like a difficult proposition, but for singer Lisa Null, the time's been a big help in an unexpected way. "Your repertoire erodes" over time, says Null. "You're just singing what you like, and you forget."

While she once knew over five hundred songs, the 65-year-old East Silver Spring resident now has about 150 pieces to choose from for her show this Thursday in Laurel, celebrating the re-release of her albums Feathered Maiden and American Primitive, both recorded over twenty years ago.

Nonetheless, Null's drawing from an incredibly wide range of musical influences, from centuries-old English ballads to 1930's singing cowboy Gene Autry to jazz and gospel. "For a long time, if you asked me what kind of music I do, I'd say 'Afro-Celtic.'," says Null, laughing. "There's a lot of places where black and white music bump up against each other."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Coming from a family where she "grew up very comfortable with all kinds of music," Null explored a bevy of musical styles. Classical training in college proved too rigid, and it left her ill-prepared to sing blues at bars in the years following in order to pay rent. Discouraged but unwilling to give up, she looked to the music from her native New England for inspiration and found a place in folk ballads. While ancient in origin, the ballad's heyday was in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were the era's popular music, mostly a means of retelling well-known fables, fairy tales and, of course, dirty jokes.

"Ballads deal with all the darker sides of the human consciousness in a very frank sort of way," says Null. Death is a common theme in ballads (specifically so-called "murder ballads"), as is forbidden or lost love. Decades of research have yielded many unusual and especially obscure pieces. "I would find a lot of strange songs . . . songs in old books that nobody sang," says Null, who has been incorporating those finds into her repertoire.

The concert will be given a cappella, a departure from Null's past work with guitarist Bill Shute, with whom she performed on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion throughout the 1980's. Arthritis has reduced her ability to play the guitar herself, and moving heavy equipment has become increasingly difficult. "We've reached that point where I can't schlep my own piano, and if you're playing in the area, you have to bring your own sound system," she laments.

But the lack of instrumentation will be an asset for her show, Null insists. "The songs I love - the old traditional songs and ballads - are meant to be sung unaccompanied," she says. "People were doing work, using their hands, and they weren't holding a guitar."

Laurel resident Dennis Cook will be hosting the show in his home. Private residences are common venues for folk concerts due to the small crowd they attract, Null explains. And besides, it's an environment best suited for the music she'll be performing. "It just takes me back . . . I've always been singing a cappella, and I don't see why I can't bring it into someone's living room," she says. "That's where it was meant to be: in porches and living rooms."

For more information, check out the Folklore Society of Greater Washington's website, where you can find out about Thursday's concert and other folk events in the region.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

creating a legacy: lisa null, silver spring folk artist (updated)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: The Awesome Room comedy show returns to McGinty's Thursday night; El Pollo Rico burns down.

Swept up by the folk revival of the 1950's and 60's, singer Lisa Null made a career for herself performing music from her roots and our country's heritage. Throughout the 1970's and 80's, Null explored the vast reaches of North American folk music, collecting songs and presenting them to a small but dedicated community of enthusiasts. Twenty years ago, she gave up full-time performing and settled in East Silver Spring shortly after. This Thursday, Lisa Null returns to the stage for her first a cappella, full-evening concert, sponsored by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington.

Last night, I sat down with Lisa Null (an occasional contributor to Just Up The Pike) in her living room to find out more about her life and Thursday's concert. Over the next several days, we'll learn about her career and the daily adventure that is living in Silver Spring. Today, Null gives us a taste of the songsshe'll be performing later this week in this video, also embedded above.

Take a look at the rest of our series:

from ballads to cowboy songs: How do you form a set list for your first real show in twenty years? Lisa Null takes us through her varied repertoire, which includes everything from 50's pop to centuries-old "murder ballads."

slumming and story songs: We take a look at Lisa's lengthy career, which took her from the bars of New York to running a record label and appearing on A Prairie Home Companion.

the "folk ghetto" of silver spring: In our fourth and final installment, Lisa talks about living in East Silver Spring, where you can go around the world without leaving your block.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

el pollo rico burns down; chicken lovers distraught

Firefighters put out a fire at El Pollo Rico, a popular Peruvian restaurant in Downtown Wheaton. Photo by Chip Py.

El Pollo Rico, regional institution and purveyor of succulent Peruvian chicken in Wheaton, suffered major damage today as a grease fire broke out in the restaurant this morning. The restaurant, located in a strip of predominantly-Latino businesses on Ennalls Avenue in Wheaton, had previously been shut down by INS last summer for employing illegal immigrants. The owner of a neighboring dry cleaner explained that the fire broke out this morning and that it was put out shortly after. Several other businesses in the shopping center were also damaged by the blaze, according to Channel 7.

"El Pollo Rico is no El Pollo Fuego," laments local photographer Chip Py, who graciously offered us some photos of the damage. "I had planned on eating here tonight."

Two years after first hearing about El Pollo Rico in my Bethesda office, I have never gotten a chance to enjoy its chicken. Today, I am truly saddened by this great loss.

The restaurant this afternoon. Firefighters estimate some $1 million in damage was caused. Photo by Dan Reed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

breaking news! JUTP page on facebook

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Crossing Georgia finds that the Forest Glen-Georgia intersection is even more dangerous than we thought; Comedy show The Awesome Room returns to McGinty's this Thursday [from the Scene]; ICC opponents still refuse to give up the fight.

Okay, so this is not breaking news and, rather, a very cheap attempt to win your support. Nonetheless: become a fan of Just Up The Pike on Facebook, where we have a brand-new page! We've got a discussion board and a feed to all of our posts, so if you're already on Facebook, you can hit up JUTP without having to do all sorts of unnecessary clicking and typing.

Have a good weekend! They're calling for some nasty snow and sleet tomorrow, so . . . don't leave the house.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

in langley park, the glass is half-full

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: East Silver Spring resident (and occasional guest blogger) Elisabeth Null singing in concert Feb. 28; Nancy Navarro running for Marilyn's seat in special election April 15; Maryland Politics Watch examines the District 4 council race.

Day laborers wait outside a shopping center in Langley Park at sunrise.

The Washington Post profiles Langley Park, the oft-maligned neighborhood of garden apartments and pupusa trucks at New Hampshire and University Boulevard. It gives a few column-inches to Bill Hanna, one of my old professors at Maryland. To call him devoted to the cause of Langley Park would be a gross understatement. A number of residents are also interviewed, presenting a view of Langley Park we rarely see:
Molin, who moved to Maryland from Mexico, also said he likes that there are so many Latinos in the neighborhood. He drives to Baltimore for work, but wouldn't consider moving there, "because this neighborhood is more familiar," he said in Spanish. "It seems perfect to me how it is."

Maria Veator started renting an apartment in Langley Park eight years ago, moving from neighboring Adelphi.

"Here, you can do more if you don't have a car, and the rent was lower," she said in Spanish. "Now, it's high -- $1,100."

She called Langley Park the place where poorer people live -- and it makes her feel at home.
Urban planners often preach the virtues of mixed-income communities as places where people learn to get along with those of different backgrounds. It's one of the reasons why Montgomery County established its Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program over thirty years ago, though in recent years it's faltered because many developers have opted to put money in a so-called "housing fund" rather than include affordable housing in their projects.

It's unsettling, then, to read that people want to live in neighborhoods with others like them, whether they reside in a McMansion in Chevy Chase or a walk-up in Langley Park. For immigrants new to the country, having a built-in community of people from home could ease the transition to American life. And there can be tension between rich and poor in some mixed-income communities, whether it's getting the cold shoulder in Gaithersburg's Kentlands (a model for this kind of development) or the stabbing of a local punk icon last summer in Briggs Chaney, where half-million-dollar townhouses are going up next to subsidized apartments.

To me, it's just a stronger argument for more integrated communities. An immigrant family in Langley Park may work their way up the income ladder and look to live in a wealthier neighborhood. When they leave, it destabilizes the community - and it's one less example of success for newcomers to see and strive for. Making Langley Park a home for more than just the poorer people may take an act of God, but it's worth creating less transient neighborhoods. That, to me, would be perfect.

Monday, February 18, 2008

industrial park, west laurel potential locations for amish market

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Ride-On fares go up ten cents March 2; County set to unveil drawings of Wheaton walkway that displaced Barry's Magic Shop; become a fan of JUTP on Facebook.

The Dutch Country Farmers' Market, a fixture in East County, might not stray too far from its current home in Burtonsville. We (by which I mean I) forgot to mention some comments County Executive Ike Leggett and his staff made at the blogger briefing weeks ago regarding the market, which has fulfilled the region's hunger for hot wings and sweet rolls for over twenty years.

Local builder Chris Jones plans to redevelop the Burtonsville Shopping Center at 29 and 198, in which the so-called Amish Market is located, forcing it to close early this summer. Nonetheless, Leggett reports, the market is working with the County and area landowners to find a site as close to the current one as possible.

Last summer, we reported that former Israeli basketball player Yoav Katz has offered his property near Burtonsville Elementary School for the market. More recently, additional locations have surfaced at Route 198 and Dino Drive, in the Burtonsville Industrial Park, and on the other side of I-95 in Laurel. The Dutch Country Farmers' Market already has a second, considerably larger store in Upper Marlboro.

"This is breaking my heart," I said to Leggett at the meeting. "I love the Amish Market."

"I live near there," Leggett replies, to which I countered, "I know."

"I love the chicken wings, and the chocolate cake," I continue, "oh, and the lemon squares! Have you tried the lemon squares -"

At that point, Gary Stith and Patrick Lacefield both jumped forward to shut me up. "Alright, Dan," Lacefield said. "None of us have eaten yet today."

Friday, February 15, 2008

fillmore debate takes it back to the 1960's

The former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road is slated to become a music hall . . . aw, you know the story already.

Where do you draw the line between activism and mere stubbornness? That's what I'm asking as the "Who Gets To Open A Music Hall In The Former J.C. Penney Building On Colesville Road" debacle drags on into its eighth month. My patience is wearing thin.

This week, the controversy's coming from Silver Spring resident Carol Bengle Gilbert. She's pretty surprised to see Patrick Lacefield strike back with a five-page rebuttal to her piece on "user-generated" news site Associated Content lambasting Montgomery County's deal with Live Nation and Lee Development, the building's current owners. In her latest piece, entitled "Montgomery County MD Pommels Live Nation Report: Fair Game or PR Run Amok?", Gilbert compares Lacefield - spokesman for County Executive Ike Leggett - to "Big Brother" for keeping tabs on her writing.

Activism runs deep in East County, from the "freeway fighters" who stopped I-95 from being built through Takoma Park to former White Oak resident Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which kick-started the environmental movement. While today's struggles - the Purple Line, gentrification, etc. - are similar, the players are completely different. I wonder if Gilbert (and her numerous commenters, all of whom totally agree with what she wrote) and the locally-based Institute for Independent Music (who just started a website protesting the County's deal with Live Nation) see themselves as following in the footsteps of Carson and the I-95 protesters.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

But this is a music hall - not a threat to people's homes, or a freeway, or pesticides in our drinking water. As much as I don't want to hear the hipster assholes on DCist saying that Live Nation's just another example of how "corporate" Downtown Silver Spring has become, I am not interested in watching this issue become the next Purple Line, bogged down in debate and acrimony. It is simply not worth it.

I've talked to everyone. I've heard Ike Leggett tell me he fears backing out now will make the County look dishonest. I've heard the disgruntled residents talk about teenagers and crime and filth and the Birchmere. I've heard Audrey Schaefer, making herself heard over Motion City Soundtrack at the 9:30 Club, telling me that I.M.P. Productions was shut out of a process they had full right to participate in. And this is what I say to everyone: cut the bullshit and bring me the music.

I.M.P. may deserve a chance, but they might only get one with a court order and a very bitter Ike Leggett. There will be other places to build in MoCo, and even if not, I'll keep going down to the 9:30 Club for shows. (And I will not get robbed on V Street, regardless of what the Singular says.) Councilmembers Elrich and Praisner says "we got a bad deal?" For Marilyn's sake, Leggett better make damn sure we're not getting screwed over: he got us into this mess, and only he can get us out.

And what about Carol Bengle Gilbert, the budding online journalist? Stop invoking The Man. If I didn't want County officials reading (and disagreeing) with what I have to say, I wouldn't have started a blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

essay time: vote and die

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Donna Edwards thumps Al Wynn in District 4; Icy roads shut down parts of Route 29; former Blake parent Phil Kauffman wins school board at-large seat.

Paint Branch High, my polling place, was surprisingly empty at 3pm the afternoon of Election Day.

You know what voting yesterday earned me? Two near-crashes, one on Cherry Hill Road driving back to College Park, and another on campus, harriedly trying to make my way back to the parking garage and to the relative safety of our slick sidewalks. I was no longer surprised at how quiet Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville was when I went a couple of hours earlier to take part in the democratic process.

The parking lot was empty save for a few cars, some people handing out flyers, and a woman bopping around with a "Hillary" sign. "Would you like a flyer?" a gentleman says, holding out a sheet that looks like it was done up on Microsoft Word ten minutes earlier. "Vote Vincent Martorano for Congressman," is what I think it says. (Martorano, whose Post profile is completely blank, ran as a Republican.) "I won't take my hands out of my pockets," I reply.

A woman approaches, holding some soggy flyers for Donna Edwards. "Sir, I'd like you to consider that Al Wynn -" she begins. "No," I say, cutting her off as I go inside.

there's so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

I feel bad about brushing them off. I don't like taking flyers that I'm just going to throw away, and I don't want to be told who to vote for. (Perhaps it is ironic that I, a blogger, would say this.) So when I came back outside, I decided to apologize. On my way out the door, I'm accosted by the woman waving a Hillary sign. "Are you old enough to vote?" she says to me. "Um, yes," I reply, rather put off, and keep walking. "Well, I'm a lot older than you are," she continues. "How old are you?"

"Nineteen, almost twenty," I say. "Wow! It's so good to see you young people out here!" she says. "Normally, I see so many old people!"

One of the election judges walks over to her. "Ma'am, you are too close to the polling place with your sign," he barks, and she shuffles away, chagrined.

"Your flyers are getting soggy," I say to the woman who supports Donna Edwards. "Yeah, I've been out here since 6:30," she replies.

"6:30?" I say, dumbfounded. "Did you eat?"

"Yes, I've gone inside a couple of times to warm up, and they brought me food."

"And you," I say to the Republican, "How long have you been out here?

"They've been sending me to different polling places today," he replies, "and I went home to warm up and take a nap.

Donna Edwards [or her proxy] scoffs. "You got to warm up at home."

Monday, February 11, 2008

east county in review: skipping class edition

Sen. Barack Obama just spoke to a full house at the Comcast Center in College Park. I am twenty minutes late for class, so I can't say anything else about it. Here's a look at what's going on in East County:

- Councilwoman Marilyn Praisner, who passed away two weeks ago, will soon see her name on the Fairland Library and Fairland Community Center, both located on Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville. County Executive Ike Leggett announced his intentions to re-name the buildings at Praisner's memorial ceremony last Saturday. The new facility will collectively be called the Marilyn J. Praisner Center.

- The managers of Downtown Silver Spring have issued a swift apology after photographer Chip Py reported being accosted by security guards for handing out political flyers on Ellsworth Drive last Friday. PFA, a partnership of the Peterson Companies and Foulger-Pratt (who built the complex), sent a statement to local activist (and frequent JUTP guest blogger) Adam Pagnucco, who contacted them immediately after the incident. After a previous controvery over free speech in Downtown, Montgomery County made it clear that First Amendment rights were in full effect on Ellsworth even though it is being maintained by the developers.

"We apologize to the community if anyone felt that our precautions were inappropriate, however briefly they may have occurred," writes PFA in the letter. " . . . It is our hope that the public understands, once again, that any rules and regulations are painstakingly considered and then enacted only with the rights and needs of the public, our tenants and the community at large in mind."

The whole statement can be read at Maryland Politics Watch.

how to keep silver sprUng-haters quiet (updated)

Check out this slideshow of the old and new in Downtown Silver Spring, taken on the Friday before Christmas.

Thayer Avenue reported earlier this week that a row of buildings at Bonifant and Fenton were demolished to make way for the new Silver Spring Library, which is planned to open in 2010. Many on the listservs have been mourning the loss of the Bonifant Courts apartments (left), which were built in 1937 and was once featured in "Best Addresses: A Century of Washington’s Distinguished Apartment Houses," as stated by Jerry McCoy from the Silver Spring Historical Society in a listserv entry.

Few would dispute that the new library - which may include shops, affordable housing and a potential Purple Line stop - will be a boon for the community. But like many revitalization projects, it comes at a price. manypeople like to call Downtown Silver Spring (the shopping complex, but sometimes the CBD as a whole) "fake" and "pre-fab." I even got into a little tiff with David Daddio from Rethink College Park last week for calling DTSS "as organic as a Twinkie." Tearing out the independent businesses and historic buildings that lined this stretch of Bonifant Street only adds fuel to the argument that the Downtown looks "inauthentic." (Inviting a multi-national corporation to open a facsimile of a famous San Francisco music hall doesn't help, either, but that's for another day.)

All great cities look as if they were built over time - because they were. There have been three bursts of development in Silver Spring: "garden apartments" and the eponymous Silver Spring Shopping Center in the 1930's and 40's; office towers and parking garages in the 1960's and 70's, and the current revitalization that began in the 1990's. Each period of growth added a new layer onto the place that already existed, making it more interesting and more complex.

I, for one, do not want to live in a place that looks like it was built all at once - neither a Silver Spring frozen in 1938 nor one straight out of 2008 - because neither is authentic. Downtown Silver Spring will never be considered a "real" place until we have a stronger push for historic preservation. And the historic preservation lobby in Silver Spring will never be taken seriously unless it actively considers opportunities for adaptation and re-use: how could our older buildings be incorporated into the "new" Silver Spring?

We want to bury Silver Spring's past because of its reputation for crime and decay, but in doing so, our generation may leave an even worse legacy. For better or for worse, Bonifant Courts may be gone - but there are still other buildings to save, if only to keep the haters quiet.

Friday, February 8, 2008

questions over where first amendment rights begin on ellsworth (updated)

Amateur photographer and Silver Spring resident Chip Py, whose run-in with Downtown Silver Spring security last June garnered national headlines and led to a march on Ellsworth Drive, is testing the limits of free speech in Downtown once again. This afternoon, Py was on Ellsworth handing out literature supporting presidential candidate Barack Obama when guards from the Peterson Companies, who manage the Downtown complex, demanded that he stop. Obama's campaign recently opened its MoCo headquarters a block away.

UPDATED: Chip has altered us that the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board will be discussing the incident and First Amendment rights on Ellsworth at their monthly meeting Monday night.

After the jump, Chip Py's letter sent to various Montgomery County officials:

My name is Chip Py and this summer I was prevented from taking pictures on Ellsworth Drive in what is now trademarked as Downtown Silver Spring. I brought this to the County Council and Executives attention, staged a protest on Ellsworth Drive, drew the attention of the media and the American Civil Liberties Union. But I am sure that you are more than aware of all of that as you authored the attached document about the publics right to use Ellsworth Drive and their first amendment rights on what you,through this document,have determined to be public space.

The reason that I am writing you tonight is something that I find completely unsettling based on the events of this past summer. Tonight after spending all day campaigning for my candidate of choice in the upcoming presidential primary I stood on Ellsworth Drive and exercised my first amendment rights of handing out campaign literature. I was immediately stopped by security guards working for the Peterson Companies who told me that I could not do that around here. I presented the letter from County Executive to the guard who called her supervisor over and said the same thing that handing out campaign literature is not allowed on Ellsworth Drive.I showed him the letter and was directed to the office there the head of security told me that the "The Photography thing this summer got all blown out of proportion' and that 'we can't just let anybody do what ever they want on Ellsworth drive'.

Quite frankly I find this offensive, the mistaken policy of the company that has been entrusted to run a taxpayer funded public/private development was tested and proven to be wrong this past summer and now with out regard to the people of Montgomery County who worked hard to right this wrong we are now faced with the denial of First Amendment Rights again on what the County Attorney's office has determined to be a public street.

I appeal to you, The office of the County Attorney, as the rule of law in this county to seek an answer. What are the next steps here?? What do we as citizens need to do to protect our fundamental freedoms on the streets of our town??

Thank you,
Chip Py

commuting by foot (where the sidewalk ends)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Frederick County says no to proposed retreat center for Silver Spring-based Muslim sect; Transit Center construction to begin this summer; Councilman Elrich interviewed (on public access cable) about Live Nation deal.

I have a friend whose father used to run from their home in Springbrook Village to his job at FEMA in Southwest. He did this every day for several decades. When I went out, I'd always see him running down the median of Route 29. His doctor said it was unhealthy because of all the pollution, so he cut the commute down by riding a bike instead. Not long after, he was hit by a car - though fortunately, he survived, albeit with a limp.

In response to his accident and several others like it, I'm sure, the County broke ground today on a sidewalk on Colesville Road between Lorain Avenue and Northwest Branch Park in Four Corners. County Executive Ike Leggett and a handful of other public officials attended the ceremony for the path, which will be little over a half-mile long.

Speakers waxed poetic about the project's significance. "‘Where the sidewalk ends’ is great for a children’s poem, but not so great for neighborhoods, so I’m pleased that we’ve been able to close the gaps and connect communities," Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) was quoted as saying.

It may be excusable that Route 29 doesn't have any pedestrian or bike trails Up The Pike, where it functions more or less as a freeway. But in densely populated communities like Four Corners, where Colesville also serves a significant amount of local and neighborhood traffic, sidewalks should be a given.

And holding a press conference for a sidewalk is even more ridiculous. Why is this considered an accomplishment? Sidewalks should be like electricity: everyone has access to it. We shouldn't be celebrating the construction of a new sidewalk. We should be fighting for the ones that don't exist yet, as if the communities not connected by them are still living by candlelight.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

leggett's blogger briefing: it's business time

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: State officials afraid FTA could kill Purple Line; Bethesda delegate wants to save Silver Spring from "public drunkenness" following Fillmore events; Blake High seniors get out the vote.

This is part TWO of a series on County Executive Ike Leggett's meeting with Silver Spring bloggers this week about the Fillmore. Yesterday, we talked about the County's lease with Live Nation.

At Monday night's "blogger briefing," County Executive Ike Leggett suggested that the block of Colesville Road between Georgia and Fenton - recently christened "Skid Row" by Silver Spring, Singular - will never catch up with its neighbors without a project like the Fillmore.

"There is not a single block of land in any business district in Montgomery County - unless there's a downturn in the market, which there is now - that is not being developed," says Leggett, noting that the former J.C. Penney building has been vacant for eighteen years. "If it was economically viable for someone to jump up and do it . . . it would've happened."

Currently lined with small, independent businesses in historic buildings on unassembled lots, the 8600 block of Colesville has been unwelcoming to developers, explains Leggett. In addition, the Lee Development Group, whose signature Lee Building at Georgia and Colesville sat empty for three years after opening, has become conservative about building on the site.

"You have to create something with a public-private partnership," says Leggett. "If it does not go through, what you see now is what will remain there."

"They're [Live Nation] a business group. They're doing it for business, we're doing it for business," he adds. "They see a vibrancy in the Silver Spring area . . . the fact that there is not a similar venue in Silver Spring suggests there's a good market share."

Where's I.M.P. headed after this? so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

A week after County Councilmembers Marc Elrich and Marilyn Praisner railed against the County's deal with Live Nation to operate a music hall on Colesville Road, the County Executive Leggett's office isn't smarting from any blows handed to them.

"At the Council meeting last week, for all its dramatics, people said 'this is a good deal'," says Patrick Lacefield, Leggett's spokesman.

Leggett emphasized that finding the best deal wasn't as important as keeping up appearances. Word of Live Nation's interest in Silver Spring has been public since last July, and the County Executive reiterated that I.M.P. Productions' counter-offer for the venue came on September 24, six days after the County signed a Letter of Intent with Live Nation. That night, the County Executive held a previous "blogger briefing" with Henry, Jen and I at which no mention of the letter was made. When I pointed out that the agreement was not made public until a press conference on the 26th, Leggett insisted that the deal was "no big secret" to people in the music industry.

"There's a developer, a music person out there saying 'we can get you a better deal," says Leggett, referring to I.M.P, owners of the 9:30 Club in the District. "The only question that has developed is 'could we get a better deal?' The answer is, 'yes, if we want to undermine the County's credibility'," he continues. "It's not worth doing that."

I.M.P. is currently looking at other sites in Montgomery County, says Silver Spring regional director Gary Stith, though he was not clear on where. According to I.M.P. spokeswoman Audrey Schaefer, the company had originally considered locating in Silver Spring as early as 2000.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

leggett's blogger briefing: putting silver spring on the set list

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Holy Cross Hospital reaches out to speakers of other languages; McDonald's school fundraisers have Councilman Leventhal in a tizzy.

This is part ONE of a series on County Executive Ike Leggett's meeting with Silver Spring bloggers this week about the Fillmore. Tomorrow, we'll look at how the County came to its decision - and why one block of Colesville Road's sat fallow for almost twenty years.

With the Fillmore a sure thing for Downtown Silver Spring, County Executive Ike Leggett explained what we can expect in the coming years at a meeting late yesterday evening with members of the Silver Spring Blogging Collective. Leggett, who was joined by spokesman Patrick Lacefield and Silver Spring regional director Gary Stith, spoke to Henry from the Silver Spring Scene, Jen from The Penguin and myself at the Silver Spring Regional Services Center at Wayne and Georgia.

Despite calls that Montgomery County has hidden its selection process for an operator for the proposed venue on Colesville Road from the public, Leggett noted that previous County-funded projects were often less visible. "I think we benefit by greater transparency," he says. "In the past, it hasn't been as open . . . [but] we're talking about a community-use facility."

In its twenty-year lease, international concert promoter Live Nation is also required to make several concessions to Montgomery County. When the venue is not booked for an anticipated 70 to 150 events each year, community groups will be allowed to use it. In its marketing, the music hall must refer to Silver Spring as its location, not Washington D.C. It's a major concession for company whose venues have names like "The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater" or "The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

"If you're an important act on the West Coast and you're told 'we have a venue in Silver Spring, Maryland,' you'll say 'where'?" says Leggett. "The answer is 'just outside Washington, D.C.'"

An Arts and Entertainment Advisory Committee will be formed to oversee the Fillmore and other venues in Silver Spring. Last summer, Silver Spring, Singular envisioned command performances based on community whims, but the committee will have considerably less power.

Henry argued that the committee would be mainly composed of older residents out of touch with current music. Leggett joked that the committee would demand that Live Nation "go and book Wayne Newton for a week to make the over-50's happy," but emphasized their limited capabilities. "It's an advisory committee," he says. "It doesn't have the authority to mandate anything . . . they want to create and maintain good will [with the community]."

"Live Nation made it clear: nobody's telling us what acts are gonna play," adds Gary Stith.

The Lee Development Group is giving the building and the land under it to Montgomery County in exchange for the rights to develop adjacent property. In addition to the $2 million Live Nation has pledged for renovating the former J.C. Penney building, the County and State of Maryland are each giving $4 million. That money will be taken out in a bond, not from County revenues, says Leggett, meaning the only actual costs incurred are for yearly interest.
Montgomery County will make over a million dollars from the Fillmore each year, compared to less than half a million in its previous failed arrangement with the Alexandria-based Birchmere.

Monday, February 4, 2008

moco's fillmore flyer

Montgomery County's promoting the new Fillmore music hall on Colesville with this flyer, sent to JUTP about an hour ago from Patrick Lacefield, County Executive Ike Leggett's spokesman. In a nod to many residents' lingering resentment over the project $8 million of State and County money that would go to the project - what County Councilman Marc Elrich called a "bad deal" - the flyer notes that the deal will offer "no subsidies to Live Nation," the promoter selected to run the venue. The County wants this to be considered a "done deal," and there's no way like an official flyer to drive the point home.

Friday, February 1, 2008

marilyn praisner (1941-2008) (updated)

"Folks tend to get the perception that their corner of the County is unique . . . when we all have the same problems." - Marilyn Praisner
UPDATES: - Sligo informed us that Planning Board commissioner Gene Lynch, who lived in Woodside Park, has also passed away. I would also like to extend my condolences to Lynch's family on this especially sad day in Montgomery County.

- Adam Pagnucco eulogizes Marilyn Praisner and her long career of public service at Crossing Georgia.

- Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large) had this to say about Praisner's passing:
"Montgomery County lost a great public servant today. I so enjoyed working with Marilyn. We shared a lot of laughs and helped a lot of people together. I had profound respect for her knowledge, her experience, her perspective and her dedication. I will never forget her example of tireless commitment and I know that for years to come, before a tough vote, Councilmembers, including me, will wonder, What Would Marilyn Do?"
- Mark D. Fennel, who ran for County Council in District 4 as a Republican two years ago, is demanding a special election to replace Praisner on a Washington Post blog.

County Councilmember Marilyn Praisner (D-Calverton) passed away this morning while undergoing heart surgery. I just wanted to express my condolences for her family and for everyone who's ever had the chance to work with our county's longest-serving councilmember.

JUTP interviewed Praisner last year. I've always felt like she was a neighbor of mine, living just a couple of blocks from my house. I didn't always agree with her policies, but it's clear she cared about our community. She cared enough to put down roots here forty years ago and never leave. How many people - in East County or anywhere - can say that?

I am inexplicably shaken. I don't know what else to say. I'm so sorry.

cruising for booze (or not) in east county

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Wheaton baby falls out of window and into safety; Golf course renovation dominates town hall meeting.

"SILVER SPRINGS": It looks like nobody at T.G.I. Friday's corporate office reads Silver Spring, Singular.

Last week, I had lunch for the first time at the new T.G.I. Friday's at The Pike and Tech Road. I should emphasize that I went on a calendar Friday, because "it's always Friday" there, as they say. Despite the "Silver Springs" printed on their welcome mat ("they always be doin' that," said the girl at the door, "they gonna change it soon"), this humble chain restaurant's opening has excited East County residents, if only for their liquor menu.

That's the result of the County's Department of Liquor Control, which regulates how and where alcohol is sold. Its tight control of liquor licenses left the East County was a somewhat dry place, save for a few bars like Harry's on Old Columbia Pike and the Corner Pocket, located on the MoCo side of the bi-county Maryland Farms Shopping Center on Cherry Hill Road. Four years ago, in anticipation of the FDA campus and the white-collar workers it would attract, the State designated the surrounding area an "enterprise zone," which made it easier for restaurants opening Up The Pike to obtain a license.

Until 2004, restaurants seeking to serve booze were limited in how frequently they could apply for liquor licenses. As Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space pointed out earlier this week, that policy meant sit-down eateries would merely set up in Bethesda and Rockville rather than go through the trouble of getting licenses for additional locations in Silver Spring or Burtonsville.

It is rather sad to say that T.G.I. Friday's is all we have after four years, and the steady flow of office workers and Riderwood retirees during the lunch hour show how starved we've been for some nice restaurants. Here's hoping we'll see more sit-down places in the coming years - and, in the meantime, try the Zen Potstickers at Friday's. (I can't tell you about their drink menu because, of course, I am underage and do not have a fake ID, sadly.)